150 Ethnic and Cultural Differences in Tornado Hazard Perception and Preparedness in Tuscaloosa

Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Symphony III and Foyer (Loews Vanderbilt Hotel)
Jason C. Senkbeil, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

The EF4 Tuscaloosa, AL tornado on April 27th, 2011 produced 64 fatalities along its 130 kilometer track. It was a rare urban tornado that primarily affected White (W), African American (AA), and Hispanic/Latino (H/L) residents from a variety of socioeconomic levels. Using a mixture of closed and open-ended questions, hybrid survey/interviews were conducted with a sample of 211 Tuscaloosa area residents in a 2 week period after the tornado. Significant results suggest that differences existed in tornado hazard perception and preparedness among the three major ethnicities of Tuscaloosa. The significant differences in perception still existed when controlling for the influences of age, education, and years lived in Tuscaloosa. In particular, H/L residents were significantly different on perception from both W and AA residents. Furthermore, the most significant variable indicating a change in future shelter-seeking plans is Hispanic/Latino ethnicity. This suggests that H/L residents did not have an accurate perception of the tornado threat, nor were they prepared for it, but the experience has motivated them to take action in the future.

Significant differences in preparedness disappeared after controlling for age, education, and years lived in Tuscaloosa with the exception of H/L and W residents and age. Another way of assessing preparedness was to analyze sheltering lead time among the three groups. While H/L residents may have been the least prepared group, AA residents had the lowest mean sheltering lead time and smallest variance on sheltering lead time. Linguistic and communication barriers largely explain many of the significant results; however, specific cultural attributes may help explain differences in perception and preparedness between the three ethnicities. These results identify a need for forecasters to begin discussing strategies and methods to better communicate weather warning information to cultural and ethnic minorities.

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